The 2017 Horse Creek stream restoration project at Pathfinder Ranches reconnected the historic channel flood plain, improved water quality, and eliminated two fish passage barriers within the stream. A result of this project is improved access for trout movement upstream from Pathfinder Reservoir to the Highway 220 bridge. Specifically, a failed earthen dam located within the channel of Horse Creek was completely removed and a collapsed culvert was replaced at a second site.
The 2.2-acre restoration area was fenced to exclude livestock during the restoration and native willow were planted along with the reseeding of riparian vegetation. There were no delineated wetlands associated within the restoration area as the channel of Horse Creek is incised directly upstream of the earthen dam, yet the outcome is expected to add wetlands to the stream.
Following the restoration work, the site was inspected by the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality for Clean Water Act §401 Certification, which included the following comments: “Through reconnection of this segment of Horse Creek and a net increase in riparian wetland, it is conceivable that capture and assimilation of pollutants such as excess sediment has improved. Improvements in riparian vegetation cover should also help decrease water temperatures. Finally, the reconnection of this segment of Horse Creek has provided additional habitat for aquatic life. The result of the project is impressive and a definite added benefit to water quality. No issues were identified, and the project is in compliance with the 401 conditions.”
(Above) A meander in Horse Creek prior to restoration.
(Below) The same meander following reseeding, willow planting and exclosure.
During the summer and fall of 2017, numerous species were identified within the channel including various trout species, crayfish and leopard frogs.